May 10, 2012 at 3:18 pm #268
adminKeymasterQuote:Verizon Wireless strikes a spectrum deal with Comcast. Comcast launches Streampix to compete with Netflix. Netflix complains that Comcast’s monthly data caps give Streampix an unfair advantage. Sony drops plans for a virtual cable-TV service, also blaming data caps. Verizon says DSL customers can’t save money by canceling phone service and relying on Internet calling.
It’s hard to keep up with all the telecommunications headlines lately without getting a bit dizzy. But there’s a key thread connecting these recent stories that’s worth paying attention to.
All involve threats to the idea of the Internet as an open, level, and competitive playing field. And the threats all arise because a handful of key companies, including Comcast and Verizon, act as gatekeepers and toll collectors and are restrained only by loose regulation and limited competition.
The reality is that the internet is controlled by only a few companies, and for most Americans they dictate terms for Americans to use the service. Add to that, that our crony capitalist FCC is promoting policies, like the sale of TV whitespaces and small stations to Verizon and AT&T, which add to the problem. Under current rules TV whitespaces (unused TV channels) may be used by locally owned wireless internet service providers to provide internet to under or unserved areas, providing real competition to the big guys. But, our current FCC, led by Julius Genachowski, is planning on gobbling up as much TV spectrum as possible to sell to the highest bidder (AT&T and Verizon).
Meanwhile we have a revolving door between the FCC and the industries that they regulate. Former commissioner Meredith Baker recently resigned from the commission to go work as a lobbiest for Comcast only months after helping to approve the Comcast-NBC Universal merger. Former FCC chief Michael Powell is now the head of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association. With this type of revolving door policy there is no way that there isn’t serious “legal” corruption going on. Real FCC reform would not only make it illegal for commisioners to take money from regulated industries while serving, but also make it illegal for commisioners to take jobs in the regulated industry after they leave. As it is now these people are making huge amounts of money to help industry take advantage of the rest of us.May 10, 2012 at 4:41 pm #1494
adminKeymasterdkreichen1968, post: 791 wrote:With this type of revolving door policy there is no way that there isn’t serious “legal” corruption going on. Real FCC reform would not only make it illegal for commisioners to take money from regulated industries while serving, but also make it illegal for commisioners to take jobs in the regulated industry after they leave. As it is now these people are making huge amounts of money to help industry take advantage of the rest of us.
I couldn’t agree more. The FCC claims unbiased regulatory actions yet the commissioners leave the public sector and immediately run to high paying jobs in the same industry they were regulating. It’s the good ‘ole boy network at its sleaziest and they don’t even try to hide it. It’s like the FDA and drug evaluations/approvals. The board is funded by money from the drug companies and, when the board members leave their jobs, amazingly enough, they suddenly have jobs with the same drug companies they are reviewing.
This Netflix/Comcast/Streampix thing throws in the face of net neutrality. To paraphrase George Orwell, apparently some bits are more equal than others.
I’m fortunate in that I have a high-quality Internet provider that doesn’t have caps. (If I had caps I’d be in real trouble.) I fear that may be nearing an end though. The cable company recently sent out a mailing to all of the ISP customers providing an online account lookup link to view Internet usage to help customers “better monitor their Internet usage.” I’d say that sounds like a bad omen. I’m very aware of data usage because that’s the nature of business I work in.
The average person has no clue nor point of reference as to how much data they use and what constitutes a high bandwidth activity. These are the same people who stream movies to their phones/tablets and suddenly slam into the data cap for their account and are confused why that happened. To leverage one streaming company against another and say they won’t penalize you for using their own service is restraint of trade. It creates an uneven playing field where economics will make the decision for the end user.
It’s bad enough that the FCC decided that the wireless companies don’t need to follow the suggestions for net neutrality but to let Comcast get away with it as a regulated provider is simply wrong. I imagine legal briefs will fly but, since the FCC won’t actually take a true pen-to-paper stance on keeping things fair, we’ll just see a newspaper applied to the nose and a stern, “Play nice.” As I joke with my wife about the security guards where she works, the FCC will just say “Stop or I’ll say stop again.”
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